By Shea + Raan Parton
Photos by Michael Spear
At Apolis, we’re fascinated by the possibilities for natural dye and we love finding ways to work with local artisans and manufacturers on interesting projects. The newly released Customized Light Indigo Market Bag and Customized Dark Indigo Market Bag gave us an opportunity to combine those interests into products that help provide fair wages, job benefits, and profit dividends to the Bangladeshi moms who make each bag.
This particular project involved the classic Apolis totes being hand-dyed by an indigo-dyeing studio on Los Angeles’s Eastside. We spoke with Max, who heads up the studio, about what makes indigo dyeing such a unique process.
Unlike more commonly used synthetic blue dyes, the indigo used for these bags is natural and plant-based — which means the resulting products are free of caustic heavy chemicals. “The way we do our indigo processing, and the equipment we have, is relatively low in water consumption, too. So this is a really good practice in trying to figure out a way to sustainably use natural dyes. It’s also a really effective dye.”
Not only is indigo-dyeing a more environmentally sustainable process, it’s also one that has been practiced for literally thousands of years. “It’s an ancient process… We try to keep it as close to that as possible.”
To achieve the light indigo shade, Max's team dunk the bags three times each, letting them sun-dry between applications. For the dark indigo shade, the team dunks the bag four to five times. “It’s basically that the natural chemical process occurring in the vat is creating an atmosphere where the indigo bonds to the fabric. We repeat that process to get the desired shade.”
Indigo dye is also known for its one-of-a-kind look, which results from the fact that the pigment oxidizes and develops a unique patina over time — a natural aging process that Max likens to that of a fine wine. “Indigo is always in demand. Indigo is such a beautiful color and process. Denim interests and enthusiasts have kept that alive for a long time.”
See the results for yourself by customizing your market bag in light or dark indigo. And see the photostory below for a look at the indigo-dyeing process that goes into every bag.
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